There isn’t much on Qatar’s border with Saudi Arabia. Just a few sun-drenched “outposts” and miles of vast desert in all directions.
But at the beginning of the year, something different appeared in the middle of nowhere: a huge, shiny and luxurious hotel complex, which even has a theme park.
The Hilton Salwa Beach Resort & Villas is clearly not just any hotel.
From above, it resembles a coastal city. Pristine twin beaches stand out from the central harbour. On the sands, glittering villages and clusters of buildings around blue pools. Behind them, a green oasis. It is one of the biggest resorts in the Middle East.
But what happens when a gigantic hotel pops up miles away from anywhere just as the pandemic freezes global travel?
It gets pretty busy, according to the resort’s general manager, Etienne-Charles Gailliez. Upon opening its doors in February, the hotel became a “staycation” (destination for trips made within the country itself) among the inhabitants of the region, says the manager. More recently, it has become a popular destination for visitors and business travelers from a wider region.
There is plenty of room. The Hilton Salwa Beach has 84 villas, ranging from two to four bedrooms, with private pools and direct access to white sandy beaches (prices start at $1,500 a night – about R$8,573). There are 31 Arab-style apartments and villas, while the main hotel has 246 rooms and suites.
The massive site also has more than 20 food courts, including seven gourmet dining options, a sophisticated spa with VIP suites, sports courts, swimming pools surrounded by landscaped gardens, corporate facilities and a marina.
In addition, the development has the largest theme park in Qatar, with dozens of attractions, including the “King Cobra”, an exciting water slide ride that takes passengers to the mouth of a huge structure similar to a snake.
Health and safety
The luxurious complex is built on 320 hectares of sandy terrain, approximately 100 kilometers southwest of Doha, strategically located to receive visitors from Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Construction began in 2015 and the final phase before the opening was focused on adapting to the improved health and safety measures, in line with Qatar’s mobility rules and hygiene protocols.
“Due to the impact of Covid-19, we had to accelerate the requirements for opening the resort and identify new exclusive retail outlets, which focused on staycations”, Says Gailliez to CNN.
That was good news for Sama Jamali, a 21-year-old Doha resident, and her friends.
“As it was not safe and difficult to travel, we decided to stay at the resort,” she told CNN. “The room was lovely, very spacious and comfortable – with advanced technology and very safe against Covid-19,” he added.
Gailliez said the introduction of travel guidelines and restrictions has led to the adoption of a phased-open approach, with a range of outlets and facilities, such as a state-of-the-art diving center and sports academy, which are scheduled to open. In the next months.
“We are a new resort and we are more than rooms. We have villages and a water park that make our structure unique,” said Gailliez.
Along with efforts to integrate the new “contactless” technology, Gailliez identified logistics and staff as key factors. “On peak days, we host up to 2,500 guests throughout the resort, with a workforce of around 1,200 staff members,” he said.
action and adrenaline
Guests, when they’re not relaxing or strolling the soft sands along the resort’s two-and-a-half mile coastline, can keep themselves busy choosing from a long list of fun activities.
At the center of everything is the Desert Falls Water and Adventure Park.
The adrenaline-filled attraction offers several children’s pools and playgrounds water rides, as well as about 30 rides and slides, including a ride on whirling rapids that, at its starting point – at the park’s 32-metre mountain peak – offer panoramic views of the entire resort.
Here, visitors can also glide through the tubes on a quick dive or try out a surf simulator.
The park also houses what is considered the first structure of canyoning (Sport of descending a waterfall in a kind of rappel) made by man in the Middle East.
There is an outdoor go-kart race track – fully equipped and with spectator bleachers – and an indoor laser tag field.
Inevitably, due to its size, the hotel offers a variety of dining options, including Middle Eastern, Italian and Chinese cuisine.
Levantine serves unique Arabic dishes with a twist, including Qattinah, a delicious mocktail consisting of handcrafted botanical spice syrup, citrus kaleidoscope and 24 carat gold flakes. Main course and dessert highlights include sizzling kebabs with Mdakhan (smoked hummus, roasted garlic puree) followed by Knafeh nabulsiyeh (pistachio cream).
Golden drinks and foosball
No Miss Wong, the sound of a gong leads guests to a private Chinese dinner that begins with an elaborate tea ceremony. Suggestions on the menu include chicken and vegetable soup (Enoki mushrooms, dried shiitake mushrooms, vegetables, chicken and saffron wonton), various dumpling options and crispy lacquered duck. a refreshing mocktail Orange Sunset (fresh orange, watermelon and lemon, grenadine syrup, tea oolong, egg white) stands out on the drinks menu.
The restaurant Dante Italian cuisine serves Tuscan wines and wood-fired pizzas. Another, the The League, is a sports and entertainment bar where guests can watch football matches and play pool and foosball. Cocktails and beer buckets are available here, along with a gastropub menu with a selection of smoked burgers, steaks and ribs.
Of course, there is no shortage of luxury resort options in Qatar, especially as the country is preparing to welcome visitors to the finals of the football World Cup in late 2022.
The already busy lineup includes W Doha, Mandarin Doha, the Ritz-Carlton’s Sharq Village and Spa, plus Antara’s Banana Island Resort offshore, all of which are more convenient to both downtown and the airport.
So is the trip to the desert worth it?
“We really liked the selection of restaurants, especially the continental buffet. First quality food and excellent presentation”, said Jamali, who is already looking forward to another stay.
“It was a wonderful experience and there was no dull moment due to the fun and various activities available,” he concluded.
This content was originally created in English.
Reference: CNN Brasil